Course summary: Self-Care During Stressful Times


I am fortunate enough that through my work I have access to numerous online courses. These turbulent times felt like a good opportunity to take one titled “Self-Care During Stressful Times.” It consists of 8 videos that altogether took 35 minutes. The videos are taken from these five courses: “How to Manage Feeling Overwhelmed“, “Mindfulness Practices“, “Happiness Tips“, “Managing Stress for Positive Change“, and “Chair Work: Yoga Fitness and Stretching at Your Desk“. 

Below are my key takeaways from each video. A lot of it was not new information for me and it felt getting reassured that I already know–even if I don’t always follow–the best practices.

1. Ending overwhelm for good

  • Habits of thoughts behavior shape the brain. So thinking positive will help.
  • If we notice more positive around us it will help us developing more optimistic outlook.
  • Feeling gratitude is the fastest way to circuit-break stress.
  • The brain cannot be stressful and grateful at the same time. 
  • List thing you are grateful before falling asleep.
  • Practice self-compassion: be nice to yourself, because it can increase health and performance.
  • Treat yourself with the same patience and encouragement as you would do others. Catch self-criticism. use self-affirmation, start a kudo journal, track what you do well.
  • Healthy humor: find things funny; see the funny, don’t need to be funny; you can exercise your humor muscle.

2. Creating calm with breathing techniques

  • When stressed we hold our breath, this pressure affects our brain negatively. 
  • We also feel out of control, so let’s take something we can control: our breathing. 
  • Breath exercise 1: breath in for five seconds and out for 5-6.
  • #2: breathing in waves: breathing in visualize light going up, and for out light moving down and out through toes. Keep counting too. Look at a relaxing, moving visual too.
  • #3: use a breathing mantra like “let in”/”let out” while breathing in/out.
  • Do this for five-10 minutes every morning.

3. Accept difficult situations

  • The pace of change faster than our brains can process it
  • VUCA: Volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous
  • During VUCA situation our mind crate stories that prevent us from accepting that we are not in control. prevent us from seeing the situation clearly With Mindfulness Practice we can accept it.
  • If we accept it we can lower our own resistance to change, become more agile and develop greater empathy for others

4. Practice: Accept difficult situations

  • Sit quietly, comfortably, without distractions; breathing in through the nose for four and out through the mouth for four
  • Notice your own thoughts, don’t judge them, notice the sense-making assumptions about the situation. 
  • Don’t judge the mind, don’t label thoughts as right or wrong; don’t judge the upcoming emotion.
  • Feel compassion for yourself in difficult time, accept the moment’s discomfort.
  • Can I be kind to myself? Thank yourself for taking the time it took to acknowledge what’s hard.
  • Keep doing this for creating neural pathways.

5. Focus on what’s good and build gratitude

  • Make a list of all the good things in your life. Big and small
  • You can organize the list around categories; e.g. physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, or work, family, friends, and self.
  • Categories can help seeing whether you missed something or some categories are too empty.
  • The list is good in three ways: 
    1. Writing it will make you feel good
    2. You can read it any time as a reminder
    3. Helps you  seeing where your happiness comes from, hence where to get more
  • Do more what makes you happy. Compare your list with your partner’s.
  • Put the activities in your diary s you would make time for them.
  • Does your happiness come from “have or do” items?
  • Keep it in a nice notebook/folder to get it out regularly.
  • Write the list once a year.

6. A safe space: Environment

  • Small adjustments we can make in our environment  will help us to navigate stress better.
  • Sensory cues can all shift our brain to feel either more calm and confident.
  • If we focus on the part of the environment we cannot change we can feel helpless or hopeless.
  • Set up quite space to work, have meetings outside, add pictures with images of nature.
  • Building in opportunities for oscillation.
  • The more energy capacity we have and the more resilient we are when challenges happen.

7. Nature as a source of happiness

  • It is good for happiness to get some contact with nature.
  • Go for a walk (e.g. at lunch), walk to the station, look at trees, go to water (lake, sea), do gardening, ride a horse, walk the dogs, watch birds, ride a bike, get real sunlight, avoid SAD, watch the stars (learn 10 constellations), sit outside viewing a meteor shower.

8. Chair workout

Instead of me summarizing the exercise why don’t you do it along with this 8 minutes long video.

Just for the record, the videos were created/narrated by Heidi Hanna (author of “Recharge: 5 Simple Shifts to Energize Your Life“), Henna Inam (author of “Wired for Authenticity: Seven Practices to Inspire, Adapt, & Lead“), Chris Croft (author of “The Big Book of Happiness: 87 Practical Ideas“) and “Desk Yogi“.

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